// Internet Duct Tape

The Fragmentation of Identity and Discussion

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I’m a social web app junkie. Where most people use a few on a regular basis as a consumer and only a couple as a producer I am an active user on far too many sites. I’m not a beta junkie to the point where I try out every web service (especially not the ones spamming my blog contact email), but I do try out more than my fair share and manage to get involved before they reach the tipping point (like Friend Feed is reaching now).

The sheer amount of web apps out there leads to fragmentization of our online identities, but that isn’t a bad thing. The people who read my blog aren’t necessarily people I’m interested in talking to on Twitter, and none of us might share the same taste in music on Last.FM. For a while there I was talking about the Ruby programming language like crazy on this blog, but now I’m using a niche tumbleblog so that I can post more often on that specific technical subject without alienating my existing audience.

But it isn’t only our online identities that are fragmenting: it’s also the discussion around content. Once upon a time the way someone would comment on something you wrote would be to write a blog post of their own in response. Then blogs got a comment section and people could write what they had to say directly on the post. Now the discussion around a post has completely fragmented: people are saying stuff about your content on Twitter, Delicious, StumbleUpon, Digg, Reddit, Facebook… pretty much anywhere except for the post where you originally wrote it.

Paul asks: Isn’t all that fragmentation bad? Instead of having millions of separate discussions, shouldn’t we have a single, unified discussion, preferably under the control and ownership of the movie studio?

(He’s relating movie studios to content producers in his allegory, and the fragmentation he’s talking about is how Friend Feed lets people create individual comments on their shared items.)

I don’t know how I feel about this.

As a content producer it’s really nice to see discussions happening around the content I’ve created. There’s been times when I’ve been tempted to disable commenting altogether because spam is too annoying. There’s been other times where I let comments languish without responding to them even though I know that’s not the way to build a community around your blog. But at least I know how people are reacting… with the explosion of social media / social networking I have no idea what people are saying unless I’m actively a member of those communities.

As a content consumer it’s much more convenient to respond to content on the community where I found it from. I don’t have to fill out some insane captcha (screw you TypePad), or login to OpenID or any of the other crazy schemes blog software has come up with in an attempt to manage spam. I don’t lose my comment history because it’s all tied to my user account on that community site. Unless I’m trying to communicate with the guy who wrote that comment there is absolutely no value for me to leave a comment on the original blog post rather than the community I am a part of.

The fragmentation of discussion might be bad for the content producer, but it makes things so much easier for the content consumer. I know which way this trend is heading…

(A smart person would build a social network scraper to reimport the comments from there into their blogging engine software — if you know of any plugins like that then leave a comment)

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  1. links for 2008-03-19 « David Black said, on March 18, 2008 at 9:20 pm

    [...] The Fragmentation of Identity and Discussion – Internet Duct Tape “Now the discussion around a post has completely fragmented: people are saying stuff about your content on Twitter, Delicious, StumbleUpon, Digg, Reddit, Facebook… pretty much anywhere except for the post where you originally wrote it.” (tags: internet socialmedia blogging microblogging aggregators attention fragmentation unbundling) [...]

  2. engtech said, on March 19, 2008 at 10:01 am

    Here’s something to prove my point:

    http://friendfeed.com/e/b94f0059-5723-8b3b-cd8c-8f2e76d8d220

    :)

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  4. Neil Aquino said, on March 19, 2008 at 7:04 pm

    The time this stuff takes from our lives is what strikes me. That and, as you are getting at, the lack of context and narrative in our lives. Sometimes I think I should pitch the computer out the window and write a letter or two a week to people I value. I wonder sometimes what I’ll think of the time I’ve spent in front of a computer screen when I am nearing the grave.

  5. From the Pipeline - 3.18.08 | WinExtra said, on March 19, 2008 at 8:52 pm

    [...] The Fragmentation of Identity and Discussion :: Internet Duct Tape – whether you like or dislike FriendFeed the one thing you can’t deny is that it has provided us with some excellent conversation starting points. This post by //engtech is another one of those great posts that deserve to be read. [...]

  6. [...] Engtech @ Internet Duct Tape As a content producer it’s really nice to see discussions happening around the content I’ve created. But at least I know how people are reacting… with the explosion of social media / social networking I have no idea what people are saying unless I’m actively a member of those communities. As a content consumer it’s much more convenient to respond to content on the community where I found it from. The fragmentation of discussion might be bad for the content producer, but it makes things so much easier for the content consumer. I know which way this trend is heading… [...]

  7. engtech said, on March 19, 2008 at 10:06 pm

    @ Neil Aquino:

    Pitching the computer is good advice. It’s amazing how many “mini-relaxation” moments you miss in a day because you’re going to use that time to check something on the computer instead of relax. Objectively my quality of life is always better when I’m computerless. The counterpoint is that I’m bored more often without it.

    “1 real friend is worth 1000 internet friends”

  8. links for 2008-03-20 | Daily EM said, on March 19, 2008 at 11:23 pm

    [...] The Fragmentation of Identity and Discussion « // Internet Duct Tape ‘Now the discussion around a post has completely fragmented: people are saying stuff about your content on Twitter, Delicious, StumbleUpon, Digg, Reddit, Facebook… pretty much anywhere except for the post where you originally wrote it.’ (tags: twitter web2.0 aggregators socialmedia fragmentation microblogging socialnetworking identity internet blogging) [...]

  9. [...] Congradulations ZDNet, you have a captcha worse than Typepad (and that’s saying a lot). No wonder the conversation is leaving the blogosphere. [...]

  10. Sueblimely said, on March 26, 2008 at 11:43 pm

    I agree that we can spread ourselves far too thin and neglect building up a coherent identity via one main source but the “new” web apps do give us the opportunity to build and develop an identity which can become more widely known. Bloggers who would get lost in the masses can publicize themselves more and are not so dependent on the vagaries of the search engines to be found. The danger lies in not taking advantage of this to develop our own conversations and communities based on our blogs by neglecting them for social networking. For some however the new forms of communication, eg Twitter, satisfy a need for interaction that at one time only a blog would have fulfilled and they will use these as their main form of online activity instead.

  11. engtech said, on March 27, 2008 at 8:35 am

    @ Sueblimely:

    I’d say the advantage for bloggers in jumping on the new social web apps is that they have a chance to make a name for themselves in the new community before it reaches the tipping point when more established bloggers are taking the ‘wait and see’ approach to it.

  12. sueblimely said, on March 28, 2008 at 12:45 pm

    You have a very good point there although many bloggers suffer social networking overload and take no notice of new services until they do become popular. If you are among the first to join you have the opportunity of forming groups that are generally popular – before someone else grabs the name – e.g Social Networking, Blogging, Web 2.0 ……

  13. [...] As Eric says in his post Congradulations ZDNet, you have a captcha worse than Typepad (and that’s saying a lot). No wonder the conversation is leaving the blogosphere. [...]

  14. Sarah said, on March 28, 2008 at 7:50 pm

    You did hear about the FriendFeed WordPress plugin, right? It brings the convo back to the blog: http://www.sarahintampa.com/sarah/2008/03/26/yes-friendfeed-wordpress-plugin.html

    Also, if you install the Disqus blog commenting system, the blog comments head out to FF too, so it’s a 2-way street!

    Yay!

  15. [...] The Fragmentation of Identity and Discussion – Internet Duct Tape [...]

  16. Wendell said, on April 03, 2008 at 8:25 am

    I’ve been watching this conversation for a couple of months. seems a little odd.

    I write in a blog because I like writing in a blog – I like blogginess or something. I don’t panic over who comments where or how things are working out on twitter or a SNS. I’m just a stay-at-home, sweater-wearing, blogging kindda guy.

    For some people blogging is too slow or takes too long or isn’t connective enough or … something. That’s okay. I’m sure the net has other tools and places that will work for them. The web really is a world-wide place, and if you can’t find something there’s always the option to build it yourself.

    What’s not-quite okay is saying “blogging doesn’t work for me anymore, so I guess its done.” That’s exactly like all those “bloggers are unreliable, biased and insubstantial” op-ed pieces in the mainstream (mostly print) media.

    Blogging is blogging, with all the advantages and disadvantages. It isn’t twittering or friending or digging or any of that stuff.

    People just need to decide what they want to do.

    Well, unless what they want to do is be the person at the watercooler (or the dinner party) who spends their time telling the rest of us what’s now hip and good ad right.

    ; )

  17. Competition « // Internet Duct Tape said, on April 29, 2008 at 5:36 pm

    [...] of the problems with the fragmenting of conversation is it becomes harder and harder to find out where people are complaining about you. TweetScan is a [...]

  18. WinExtra » Setting your brand free said, on May 12, 2008 at 4:43 pm

    [...] others who have decided that this is a serious career path for them things like brand dilution and fragmentation have become important topics of [...]

  19. Igor The Troll said, on June 13, 2008 at 2:30 am

    Comment Fragmentation is also good for the original post publisher because if the original post publisher participates in different Social Media networks, the publisher gains additional followers vs, if people would only comment about his content on his blog.

    Just think of more eye balls. More teachers teaching each other about a particular issue.

  20. Tyrrist said, on December 12, 2008 at 6:10 am

    Âñåì ïðèâåò :)
    Ñêîðî íîâûé ãîä, è âñå ìû ÿ äóìàþ õîòèì åãî õîðîøî âñòðåòèòü…
    Ðàññêàæèòå ïëèç, ïîäåëèòåñü èäåÿìè, êòî êàê áóäåò âñòðå÷àòü? À òî ó ìåíÿ ñîâñåì íåò âàðèàíòîâ è íîâûõ èäåé, äîìà ñêó÷íî, â êàôå áàíàëüíî, çà ãîðîäîì äîâîëüíî äîðîãî….

  21. Acsacalos said, on December 20, 2008 at 12:59 am

     êîìïàíèè ïðèäóìàëè íà íîâîãîäíèé ïðàçäíèê íàðÿäèòüñÿ â êîñòþìû ïðîäóêòîâ. À ÿ íå ìîãó îïðåäåëèòüñÿ ñ êîñòþìîì. Ïðîøó ñîâåòà. Ìîæåò êòî ïîäñêàæåò â êàêîé “ïðîäóêò ìîæíî îáëà÷èòüñÿ” è ãëàâíîå õî÷åòñÿ óñëûøàòü ïðåäëîæåíèÿ î òîì, êàê èìåííî ñìàñòåðèòü ýòîò êîñòþì.
    Ïîìîãèòå, ïëèç.

  22. [...] 4) The Fragmentation of Identity and Discussion, 18 March [...]

  23. lukeryb said, on July 29, 2009 at 8:42 am

    Sometimes it does take over peoples lives though. Blogging is Blogging…but you still need to get out.

    Content is vital ofcourse, you want to blog about stuff your followers want to read about.

  24. Sydney said, on December 10, 2009 at 11:54 pm

    I dont know what to say here.. I been circulating around blogs trying to find an answer to my predicament. I need to file a class action suit against my corporation. ? Anybody can guide me how it works in India ?

  25. Sarah said, on December 14, 2009 at 4:20 am

    This was very informative. Thanx for taking the time and helping me


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